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The shortage of skilled specialists is a factor that plays a role in many processing industries in the United States but it is particularly serious in the food processing industry. Genesee Community College (GCC) aims to help tackle this problem by launching a unique Food Processing Technology course in the fall of 2014, according to InnovationTrail.org.
The college, situated in the western part of New York state, will provide qualified staff for food processing facilities in the area.
With the addition of two recently opened manufacturing plants owned by dairy processors Quaker/Muller and Alpina, Genesee County and the entire upstate New York have become a regional hub for the food processing industry. More investors to the area could be attracted in the future, when Genesee County will become an established center for skilled personnel. According to Rick Ensman, GCC's director of development and external affairs, the new program will provide the state with a new generation of specialists in food storage, quality control and regulatory affairs.
Everything that consumers eat has been grown or caught somewhere and has been harvested, transported and processed somewhere. The GCC Food Processing Technology program will prepare future workers for the industry by showing them the wide variety of jobs that are needed to bridge the gap between crops and people's dinner table, Ensman explained.
Many local businesses are already looking forward to working with the new specialists. Carol Murphy, owner of New York-based Murphy Orchards, grows her own fruit, vegetables and herbs. She and her employees take care of everything, from growing the plants to processing them into jams and jellies. She believes that the food processing program will be extremely valuable. There are so many details and different aspects of processing that need to be done correctly, to ensure that products preserve their nutritional values and are safe for consumers, she told Innovation Trail website. Small scale processors have had to acquire this knowledge from previous generations or on their own, looking into numerous studies and books. It would have been great to have people who already knew how to do these things when the business started, Murphy said.
She is just one of the employers who state that they will be more likely to hire people who already have a qualification in food processing, not just because this will allow them to work at their full capacity from day one but also because their knowledge would be beneficial to the company by making it easier to keep up with the regular updates in safety regulations typical for the industry. Many processors have lost valuable resources while learning through making mistakes and, if that can be avoided, businesses would feel more confident in making plans for growth and expansion, Murphy added.
Although the program is still not formally approved by the State Education Department, Ensman is convinced that approval will be granted soon. The college has already secured USD238,329 of funding for the program through the State University of New York.